How to Configure the msdos.sys file
By Stephen Bucaro
Msdos.sys was one of the three files (along with io.sys and command.com) that DOS 6
and earlier versions was composed of. It was a binary file that created a disk buffer
and file control block for service routines, and performed hardware initialization.
Msdos.sys was is a critical file in the boot sequence of early Windows operating systems.
Beginning with Windows 95, msdos.sys was combined into io.sys and the new msdos.sys
became a text editable configuration file. Windows Vista, Windows 2008, and Windows 7
have a different boot sequence that doesn't use msdos.sys, it uses bootmgr instead.
But you'll still need msdos.sys if you want to dual-boot with an earlier operating system.
Msdos.sys is a hidden system file located in the root of your boot drive. To view
hidden files, in Explorer's View menu select Folder Options. In the
"Folder Options dialog box click on the View tab and under Hidden
Files check Show all files. You may want to make a backup copy of msdos.sys
named msdos.sys.bak before you make any changes to the file.
There are three sections to msdos.sys. The [Paths] section tells Windows where to find
the necessary startup files. The WinDir= entry contains the path to the folder
containing the operating system. The WinBootDir= entry contains the path to the boot
folder. The WinBootDrv= entry contains the letter of the boot drive. You shouldn't
make any changes to this section.
The [Options] section is used to configure startup settings. The last section of the
file is filler to make sure the file is at least 1,024 characters long. Before you can
edit the msdos.sys file you need to right-click on the file name and in the
Properties dialog box that appears, uncheck the Read-only attributes check box.
The [Options] section can contain up to 16 entries. The default msdos.sys usually
contains only five entries. You can edit these settings in Notepad for purposes of
debugging or just to make it start faster. Below is a list of some useful entries.
AutoScan - Controls whether Windows runs ScanDisk after an improper shutdown. If you
have a large hard disk, ScanDisk can take a long time. You may want to prevent it from
running automatically. Setting AutoScan=0 prevents ScanDisk from running automatically.
BootGUI - Controls whether your system starts in Windows mode or DOS 7 mode. Setting
BootGUI=0 causes it to start in DOS mode. (Note: Windows Me does not support booting
in DOS mode, so this will have no effect.)
BootKeys - Controls whether Windows will recognize keys pressed during startup. You
might want to press F8 or Ctrl during startup to display the Startup Menu. However,
if you want to keep unauthorized people from bypassing your logon, you should set
BootKeys=0 to ignore keys presses during startup.
BootMenu - If you want the Startup Menu to appear each time that you start Windows, set BootMenu=1.
BootMenuDefault - Specifies the Startup Menu command that is highlighted and selected
by default when the Startup Menu appears. Set this to one of the menu numbers shown below.
5=Command prompt only
6=Safe Mode command prompt only
BootMenuDelay - Sets the delay in seconds that the Startup Menu is displayed before
the default option is automatically executed.
BootMulti - If you had DOS on your computer when Windows was installed, BootMulti=1
puts the option to boot from this previous version of DOS in the Startup Menu.
(Windows Me does not support booting in DOS mode.)